1:17 PM: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan today issued another request for Occupy Oakland protesters to leave Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, where they have had an encampment for a month.
Quan announced her request in a brief statement to reporters at the Cathedral of Christ the Light Church, where she participated in an interfaith prayer breakfast with religious and community leaders.
The request comes in the wake of the fatal shooting of a man shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday at 14th Street and Broadway, near the encampment.
“We need to peacefully close the encampment at City Hall and we’re asking people to leave,” Quan said.
She said city officials will give the protesters another official notice and will announce details of that notice later today.
“We’re asking them to leave now and peacefully,” Quan said.
Quan has asked protesters to leave several times in recent weeks but so far they haven’t budged.
The mayor said she will ask for the assistance of religious leaders who participated in the prayer breakfast in talking to the protesters and asking them to leave.
More than 25 of those religious leaders issued a statement saying that they support the encampment and Oakland officials shouldn’t use the shooting as a reason to close it down.
In their statement, they said they see Occupy Oakland as “a positive catalyst for hope and needed change in Oakland that is rendered even more important in light of more killings in Oakland.”
The Rev. Kurt Kuhwald of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland said, “To evict the many people in this camp, many who are homeless and unemployed, does injury to them by pushing them back into the shadows and margins again. It also deals a devastating blow to the heart of a prophetic and hopeful movement that is calling for much needed change.”
Servant B.K. Woodson, the pastor of a church in downtown Oakland, said, “I believe that Occupy Oakland is precisely the symbolic and visible manifestation of the community’s cry against violence, not just at the hands of guns, but at the hands of an economic system that leaves so many jobless, homeless and hopeless.”
The religious leaders said they planned to march from the cathedral to the Occupy Oakland encampment today.
The Oakland Police Officers’ Association, which represents the city’s police officers, issued an open letter to Occupy Oakland protesters today asking them to leave the plaza in front of City Hall so officers can concentrate on fighting crime in other parts of the city.
Dom Arotzarena, the union’s president, expressed frustration that Quan is only asking protesters to leave the plaza voluntarily and isn’t taking more forceful steps to remove them.
Arotzarena said, “She is in charge of the city” but he thinks she hasn’t shown any sense of urgency in getting the protesters to leave.
He asked, “What is the mayor going to do?”
Quan refused to take questions from reporters after she finished making brief comments at the cathedral.
Just before she spoke to reporters, Quan joined religious leaders in releasing doves from the cathedral’s plaza in an effort to seek peace.
When she released a dove, Quan said, “May we be strong enough to find peace in our city.”
10:49 AM: The union that represents Oakland police officers released a letter today asking “Occupy Oakland” protesters to leave the plaza in front of City Hall so officers can concentrate on fighting crime in other parts of the city.
The request by the Oakland Police Officer’ Association follows a fatal shooting shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday at 14th Street and Broadway, near the month-old encampment of “Occupy Oakland” protesters in Frank Ogawa Plaza.
In what it called “an open letter to Occupy Oakland,” the union said, “On behalf of the 645 Oakland police officers we represent, this letter comes to you out of duty to protect the Oakland community and its citizens.”
The union told protesters, “We understand and sympathize with your message and “we respect your right to peaceful protest” but said “we are also sworn to protect the citizens of Oakland” and the city is now “in a state of emergency.”
The police union said its member officers “are the 99 percent struggling in Oakland neighborhoods every day to contain the 1 percent who rob, steal, rape and murder our law-abiding citizens.”
But the letter said the “Occupy Oakland” protest “is taking our police officers out of Oakland neighborhoods and away from protecting the citizens of Oakland.”
The union said it is important to fight crime in Oakland because “we are the fifth most violent city in the United States–with more shootings and homicides than any city west of the Mississippi.”
The letter said, “Last night’s murder, right in the epicenter of “Occupy Oakland,” is unacceptable. So is the violence being promoted by ‘renegade’ protesters who are lighting firebombs, destroying property and attacking police.”
The union said, “It is time for us to stop directing all of our efforts at policing the small enclave of Occupy Oakland and get back to our job of protecting the citizens of Oakland in the neighborhoods where our residents live.”
In a plea to protesters, the union said, “Please, we ask you: leave Frank Ogawa Plaza peacefully and immediately so Oakland Police can get back to work fighting the devastating crime that’s occurring in our neighborhoods.”
The police union said, “You have sent the world a strong message; now it is time to go home” and leaving peacefully today “will send a message to Oakland that you care about our citizens and respect our city.”
The union concluded, “With last night’s homicide, in broad daylight, in the middle of rush hour, Frank Ogawa Plaza is no longer safe. Please leave peacefully, with your heads held high, so we can get police officers back to work fighting crime in Oakland neighborhoods.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News